Survey: General Search Fails Professionals

Convera, an enterprise search company, commissioned an online survey of 1,000 U.S. “professionals” in publishing, advertising, marketing, healthcare, finance and government. The survey sought to determine work-related search behavior and corresponding satisfaction levels. While sponsored research must always be regarded with a critical eye, the results are worth noting:

  • 95 percent of professionals use Internet search engines for work, but only 40 percent say they are “very satisfied” with the results. (Note from Danny: The “satisfied” figure rises to about 95 percent of those who are both “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with search engines, which is far from most professionals considering internet search engines a “mediocre research tool,” as the report says. This is the type of spin that Greg is warning about needing a critical eye. The satisfaction level is much better than it seems using only the “very satisfied” figure.

  • Only 21 percent feel that their search query is always understood. (From Danny: Other figures are not reported. There might be a big chunk saying that queries are “usually” understood — or not — but full poll figures from this study aren’t given).
  • Less than 25 percent of professionals are very confident that when using popular Internet search engines they’ve looked everywhere to find answers. (From Danny: this isn’t necessarily a search engine problem. Studies have routinely found people might blame themselves if a search engine doesn’t come up with an answer because they mistakenly — and unreasonably — assume search engines know everything. The study also notes that most professionals will spend a fairly long time searching. Up to 42 percent will go 15 minutes, and big chunks will go longer. Rule of thumb: if you don’t find it after 10 minutes of searching, try an non-search engine resource. It might not actually be on the web).
  • Just one in 10 professionals always finds exactly what he or she is looking for on the first attempt.
  • About 70 percent admit getting sidetracked during the search process and end up on sites they didn’t expect to visit and are not relevant to their work.
  • More than 60 percent disclosed they do not ask for help when lost, while 80 percent said they have never been trained to use the advanced search feature. The survey also found an appetite for vertical search and the perception that such vertical engines would offer better results.

Recognizing the greater depth and structure that verticals can bring to search, Google and Yahoo have been making greater efforts to verticalize. For example, see Brian Smith’s post about Yahoo.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: Search Behavior

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://seo-theory.blogspot.com/ Michael Martinez

    4 out of 5 information industry professionals have had no training on how to use the advanced search functions? Is that an issue with the search engines’ promotion or does it signify a short-coming of the intuitive capabilities of the general population?

    Perhaps something in-between?

  • http://hauntingthunder.wordpress.com/ Neuro

    Arguably only one of the groups mentioned is a “Professional

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